"The best cure for one's own grief and pain was worrying about the well-being of someone else."
― Drew Karpyshyn, Children of Fire
Templar Redding Surana had little experience with children. Sure, in Denerim he had helped out the local orphans. But this was different.
There were rumors of an elven apostate living in the woods near the Korcari Wilds, and Redd had been loathe to go. Something unnatural grew there and he wanted no part of that mischief. But he was a Templar after all, and that stick-in-the-ass Greagoir told him to go with a few of his men to investigate the tiny woodland hut.
The hut in question was unnaturally quiet. Save for his torchlight, Redd couldn't see a damn thing. As he came closer to the shanty, he noticed something wet glistening upon the broken door.
A chill ran down Redd's spine. He had seen blood too many times in his young life, and he now suspected the Templars weren't the only ones to get rumors of the apostate.
"Maker's Breath…" He heard one of the Templars behind him.
With a steady hand, Redd held him back.
"Let me go first." he said, receiving a fast and ready nod from his companion.
Warily, Redd held his sword out, moving the door open slowly with his shielded arm.
It was dark and quiet, and smelled of dried meats and old sweat. This was immediately followed by the acrid scent of blood and death. The door stopped halfway, Redd heard a soft thud when he tried to push it open once more. He managed to get himself through, now seeing that the object blocking the door was a young woman. He gently turned her over, the tips to her once pointed elven ears crudely torn off.
She might have once been very beautiful, but her blonde hair was caked with blood and dirt, and her light eyes were clouded. Her throat had been slashed open, evidence of assault was clear enough as he looked at her broken body.
Redd felt his stomach knot up, flashes of his own childhood trauma swimming drunkenly in his head. He said a small prayer for her.
The was a soft thump in the darkness. Redd set the hand of the elven woman down. He slowly went over to the misshapen armoire, noticing one of the doors was slightly ajar. He set his sword and shield aside.
"Hello?" He said quietly, his Starkhaven accent still evident in his speech.
There was a long silence before he was answered by a tiny voice.
Redd crouched down, his armor clanking awkwardly, "Are you alright?" He asked.
He looked through the small open slot between the doors, greeted by the illumination of bright amber eyes. There was a soft gasp followed by the crackle of a fire.
The wardrobe illuminated with the orangey fingertips of the little girl, embers floating up in the air. Small sparks started to fly up, almost hitting red in the face. He could feel the heat whiz by his head, singeing his hair.
"Alright, alright," Redd said calmly, "I'm not going to hurt you."
The light died down a little bit, the little girl eyed him, "Are you a knight?"
Redd smiled, "I am."
"Did you fight a dragon?" The little girl asked, getting closer to him.
"Well I might as well have, you shooting that fire at me."
The little girl wrinkled her nose, "I'm no dragon."
"No? You seem fierce enough to me."
The little girl thought for a moment, "I burned the bad men."
Redd looked behind him, now seeing the charred remains of a man in the corner of the hut, his blade still in his hand. He turned back to the child.
"Was that you?"
The girl nodded quickly, "They hurt ma…" Her lip trembled.
"I know, I know." Redd said gently.
They sat in silence for a while, Redd could her the girl moving closer to him every once in awhile. She was now at the opening when she finally asked for his name.
"My name is Redd."
The little girl wrinkled her nose again, "That's a color."
"What? They just call it red because my face gets that color when I'm angry. They stole my name."
"Then you must be angry a lot."
Redd chuckled, "Perhaps…" He thought for a moment, "Might I have your name?"
The girl was hesitant, he could feel her eyes on his face.
"Na'Nalia." She answered.
"What a pretty name." Redd smiled.
"I know." Na'Nalia said smartly.
She climbed down out of the wardrobe. Redd could see that she couldn't have been older than 3 or 4 years old. She sat down next to Redd and huffed.
"Nani...can I call you Nani?" Redd asked.
"Nani, would you like to leave?"
"Well it looks to me like you're using magic. How would you like to learn more magic with other children your age?"
Nani shrugged, "It sounds lame."
"Well I'll be there."
"Then I guess it isn't so bad…" Nani sighed.
"C'mon, kiddo." Redd took her up into his arms. He shielded her from seeing her mother on his way out.
His fellow Templars stood outside, kicking the ground.
"You." Redd pointed to one of them. When he came closer Redd whispered, "We're taking her back to the tower, give the mother a proper burial."
"What of the father?"
"Didn't see him."
"Ser…" The Templar pointed to the trees.
Redd looked up to see a dangling body hanging from a large limb, a post that read 'knife-ear' in red letters.
Redd sighed, "Him too then."
He held Nani close to him as he walked towards the horses lent to them by the Chantry. By the time he sat in the saddle Nani was already half asleep. In the moonlight he could see the puffiness under her eyes, clearly exhausted from crying.
As they rode away, Redd could feel Nani slowly sinking into a deep sleep. He looked down at her and thought to himself that this little girl was going to change his life forever.